Researchers released a study recently that found out something, uh, shocking. Given the task of spending fifteen minutes alone with nothing but their own thoughts, more than half the people in the study chose to give themselves electric jolts just to have some kind of outside stimulation.
Yes —many ”normal” people would rather give themselves a painful shock than sit without noise, or at least an internet connection, for fifteen minutes.
Too much tech?
It might surprise you to find out that Steve Jobs was a low-tech parent. His kids didn’t have iPhones. In fact, most Silicon Valley execs keep tight reins on family use of electronics. They know, better than anyone, how controlling those things can be and how dangerous the online world can get.
Plus, you know that glazed-eye feeling when you’ve sat looking at Youtube for just too long. It’s so easy to stay there. A click is a lot less work than thinking of something else to do. The average teenager spends the equivalent of a full time job looking at screens. That’s a lot of hours of cat videos.
Even though teens are tech savvy and able to work the world of technology better than their parents, there is one tech area they haven’t mastered as well — how to be unavailable when they want to be.
Can you separate yourself from your phone?
The feeling that you have to answer every text, respond to every notification, or snapchat every moment of your life can get really stressful. You start to feel like you have no time that’s just yours. No chance to get away from being “on call” 24/7. If anyone can claim your attention, and demand your response, at any time, through a dozen different formats, where is your freedom to choose your own space?
Maybe we’d be more able to handle fifteen minutes of quiet if we ever actually had it in our lives.
Isn’t there something just a little funny (and not funny in a good way) about that little rectangle thing in your hand telling you what to do when? When did it become the boss of you? Here are a few ideas for taking back your ability to choose when, and to whom, you respond.
Four ways to find quiet
1. Choose “zones” that are unavailable. Driving, obviously, is the number one. Everyone who calls me knows I won’t ever answer a text while I’m driving. Ever. And they’re OK with that. Generally, your friends want you to stay alive, so if anyone gives you a hard time about this? I’d kind of question their motivation there.
Find other spaces you’re going to choose to say, “I’m not listening.” Mealtimes. An hour before sleep. Real face time out with friends. All of them are good options for making a commitment to “just saying no” to interruptions and demands.
2. Make other plans. If you’re not around a screen, you can’t use it, can you? So choose to make plans to go out with friends to do something active (don’t go to a restaurant with TVs or a movie.) Volunteer somewhere. Get outside and take a hike, learn to geocache, or clean up a playground. Take an art class. Make a list somewhere (on your phone!) of things to do when you know you should get away from that screen. Otherwise, it won’t happen. The lure of the click is too strong.
3. Choose a fast. Every once in a while, decide to go on a fast from electronics (have sane exceptions, like you will return your parents’ texts when they ask if you’re still alive). You pick for how long—a day, a week, a month. The point is to do it. You’ll be surprised at how free you start to feel after the first hours of panic pass.
You can make this competitive, too. Do it with a group of friends. Whenever someone cheats, he or she is honor bound to put a dollar in the group pot. At the end of the fast, everyone go out and use the money to do something fun (chosen by the person who put in the least amount of money).
4. Talk about it. Talk to your parents, or someone you trust, about anything you find uncomfortable in media. Especially talk about it if you see, or are a victim of, cyber bullying. You’re definitely not alone. Talk to your parents if you feel like they are spending too much time staring at screens and not enough with family (yes, I do hear teens saying this). Talk about holding each other accountable for being unplugged.
Reconnect with God
We live in a world that will overwhelm us with its demands to be noticed, listened to, and commented upon. We have to admit, sometimes we’re afraid if we don’t comment, if we don’t post a status, if we aren’t ‘liked’ enough times, we’re not worth our space in the galaxy.
But the truth is, you’re worth your space because God says you’re His, not because you got ten more Happy Birthday wishes than Jacob or Madison. He has dreams and goals for us, and we can’t hear them if we’re stuck full-throttle open taking in everything else.
I need quiet. So do you. Not just because it’s healthier, but because I don’t want to miss what God has to say to me about His plans for me. He’s the only one I want to be available to, 24/7.